Limb Loss Legal Panel
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Legal Case Studies
Please Note: As part of our agreement with the Panel, its members make an annual donation to the Limbless Association, which helps to ensure a good quality service. This financial agreement complies with the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007.
Legal Case Study 1
Failure by Defendant hospital to adequately examine the 50 year old female Claimants left knee after a fall at home and as a result, failed to recognised symptoms of vascular compromise and to refer for vascular review. Thereafter, the claimant was negligently discharged from hospital.
By the time the claimant returned to the hospital 6 days later (phone calls made to the hospital in the interim and told not to worry), she had lost the opportunity to undergo an urgent decompressive fasciotomy (needed due to untreated compartment syndrome), which would have prevented the need for an above the knee amputation. Extensive expert evidence was needed in the following disciplines:
- Orthopaedic surgery;
- Occupational therapy; and
- Life expectancy.
The claim included provision for care, loss of earnings/pension, prosthesis, new accommodation, aids and equipment, additional holiday expenses, DIY, gardening, travel / transport and therapies. The claimant had done very well post accident and was well motivated and so managed to go back to full time work within 8 weeks of the fitting of her prosthesis which was 9 months post injury. She has since reduced her hours to part time due to the daily physical strain of using prosthesis.
The matter settled for £975,000 with an admission of liability and with the involvement of a joint settlement meeting which took place two months before a trial was listed.
Legal Case Study 2
Vicki was aged 19 and studying for a Degree in Physical Education, hoping to fulfil her lifelong ambition of joining the RAF as a PE Instructor. She began to suffer pains in her shinbones, initially put down to too much exercise, but her problems continued so she sought medical advice. She was seen by a Consultant who diagnosed her as suffering from a bone cyst on her right tibia.
Removal of the bone cyst was arranged, a biopsy was undertaken and a provisional diagnosis of a malignant bone tumour was made. Assistance was sought by her local hospital and, following detailed examination, they diagnosed a malignant bone tumour and recommended the immediate commencement of chemotherapy and extensive surgery of the right limb…possibly even amputation. Chemotherapy commenced immediately and Vicki underwent a clearance biopsy. The malignant bone tumour was removed along with the majority of the tibia, and a titanium implant was inserted. Chemotherapy continued over the course of the next three months, with devastating side effects including violent sickness, hair and weight loss and general debilitation. Despite all of this, Vicki continued with her University Course.
Less than a year later, following a fall that resulted in a spinal fracture to her right tibia, Vicki was advised that the original diagnosis was wrong; she had never had any form of cancer and the majority of her medical treatment was totally unnecessary. To make matters worse, the leg implant was causing Vicki considerable pain and she had very limited mobility. After thinking long and hard about her situation, Vicki opted to undergo an above knee amputation. As a result of the previous medical procedures, it was necessary for Vicki to have an unusually high amputation, making it extremely difficult for her to find a suitable prosthesis.
Vicki, along with other patients who had been misdiagnosed, pursued a compensation claim. She instructed a firm on the Limb Loss Legal Panel to represent her and liability was soon admitted. Eventually, Vicki secured a six-figure compensation settlement, which enabled her to pay for special adaptations to her home, ensure the provision of artificial limbs for life and provide ongoing physiotherapy treatment. Vicki’s overall settlement is undoubtedly a considerable sum of money, but only £100,000 of that figure represents the actual injury sustained by Vicki; the remainder of the monies is made up from the past/future care requirements, accommodation requirements, loss of earnings and the provision of appropriate prostheses.
Vicki has, with the help of her medical and legal team, been able to rebuild her life. She is now married with two children, works as a sign-language specialist for children, teaches part time and raises money for her local hospice by swimming in sponsored events.
Legal Case Study 3
A refuse collector who was run over by his colleague and had to have his leg amputated has received £400,000. Kenneth Armstrong, 50, from Barry in South Glamorgan now needs to use a prosthetic limb following the accident in October 2009.
The experienced binman for Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council was getting down from the refuse collection lorry on Windsor Place, when he was caught by the vehicle’s front wheel and fell to the ground. The driver did not notice he had fallen and drove on and over his foot, stopping the heavy vehicle on top of it. It was several minutes before the driver realised what had happened and reversed the lorry back off him. Mr Armstrong was rushed to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to try and save his left foot. It was so badly crushed that a week later he needed to have the leg amputated below the knee to reduce the risk of infection.
Mr. Armstrong now uses a prosthetic limb and was able to return to work for the council within 10 months. He has been unable to return to collecting bins which has meant a drop in pay. Investigations revealed the driver had failed to check Mr Armstrong was safely clear of the vehicle before moving on. In 26 years as a binman, Mr Armstrong had never been trained on the safest way to leave the lorry. Despite that lack of training, he had been filmed doing his job, including leaving the lorry in the way he was at the time of the accident, for training videos shown to new recruits. The council admitted 80% liability and settled the claim out of court.
Mr Armstrong said: “I blame my colleague for this accident because he took no care to ensure I was safely clear of the lorry before driving off. It’s meant I’ve lost my leg, lost a lot of pay and had to give up riding my motorbike. I was determined that I would learn to cope with my injury, lead an independent life and get back to work as soon as possible which I feel proud that I have done.”
Legal Case Study 4
John worked as a delivery driver, delivering foodstuffs overnight to cafés around the country. One evening, he was driving back down the A1 towards London and it was raining and the road was wet. Whilst driving at about 65mph on a dual carriageway, John lost control of his van. He left the road and collided with a tree. In the impact, his leg was traumatically amputated above the ankle. He was discovered some time after the accident and taken to hospital, where it was necessary to amputate his leg below the knee.
The van driven by John was hired by his employers from a national van hire company that was also responsible for its servicing. John believed that his accident had occurred because a tyre had blown out. However, the view of the solicitors whom he approached initially was that there was insufficient evidence to pursue a claim.
John then approached a member of the Limb Loss Legal Panel. His solicitor considered the police documentation which had been obtained by the previous firm. There was no evidence that any of the tyres had blown, but one was noted as being at exactly the legal minimum tread. Although the van had been disposed of, it was possible to obtain the maintenance records and other documentation. It was clear that the hire company had a policy of placing tyres with a deeper tread at the front of the vehicle as opposed to the rear. Although it is a common error to believe that the deeper tread should be on the front, expert evidence was obtained that showed that this was in fact an unsafe practice, as this can cause a vehicle to oversteer and lose control in wet conditions. A national van hire company should have known this.
This was a very difficult case to win. The insurers denied liability throughout, saying that the accident was due to John’s error when driving the vehicle. It was not until 4 days before the trial was due to begin that the insurers made their first offer. On the evening of the last working day before trial, the insurers accepted a proposal put forward by John’s solicitor to settle for a 6 figure sum to cover his injuries, financial losses and needs.
Legal Case Study 5
Martha was a 48-year old lady who was hit by a bus whilst using a pelican crossing. She suffered severe injuries resulting in a below knee amputation of the left leg and the loss of her right big toe. Unsurprisingly, Martha suffered psychological trauma as well as phantom pain in her left leg. She instructed a Limb Loss Legal Panel member to handle her claim.
Although the bus driver was successfully prosecuted for driving into the crossing against an amber flashing light, the insurers claimed that Martha had stepped into the road when the green man started flashing and had therefore contributed to her accident. They suggested that Martha’s compensation should be reduced by a third for “contributory negligence” and when this was rejected, they proposed a 25% reduction, which was also rejected.
Martha said that she had stepped into the road with the solid green man showing, but none of the independent witnesses could confirm this. If a Judge had found against Martha on this, she would have lost about 25% of her compensation and so her solicitor negotiated a 90:10 split on liability in her favour to avoid this risk.
Martha’s solicitor obtained expert evidence in orthopaedics, plastic surgery, psychiatry, nursing, occupational therapy, prosthetics, orthotics, and accommodation to assess all of her needs resulting from her injuries. Martha’s earnings before the accident had been very modest and the bulk of her claim related to her prosthetic needs. The bus company’s offer of £225,000 was rejected and the case was listed for a 5-day trial. However, in an attempt to avoid this ordeal for Martha, her solicitor arranged a mediation meeting before trial at which a settlement was agreed of £472,000 (after taking into account the 10% reduction on liability).
Legal Case Study 6
Simon suffered an above-knee amputation of the right leg following an accident at work. Simon was driving a Bobcat machine and loading sand into a bucket. There was no seatbelt available for use in the Bobcat, as it had been unlawfully clipped together beneath the seat. The bucket got caught, and as Simon sought to dislodge it, the Bobcat tilted forward. Simon placed his right leg out of the Bobcat to balance himself and to prevent him falling forward out of the vehicle. As the Bobcat continued to tilt forward, Simon was lifted off the seat and the engine cut out. As the Bobcat fell back, the bucket fell, and the bar holding the bucket slammed into Simon’s leg.
Simon’s right leg was crushed. Despite several operations attempting to save the leg, he required an amputation. He then had considerable problems adapting to a conventional prosthesis. Simon instructed a member of the Limb Loss Legal Panel which issued Court proceedings and his employer formally admitted liability for the accident.
Simon’s solicitor agreed a rehabilitation programme with the insurers, which included funding for osseointegration to overcome Simon’s problems with a conventional prosthesis. Simon was fitted with a permanent titanium “bolt” component to his leg stump to which a prosthetic limb was then attached. This avoids any relative movement between bone and metal implant enabling long-term loading. Simon did not need to wear a socket and was able to weight bear naturally through the cut end of the bone.
The treatment was a success and the insurers then argued that this meant that Simon’s needs for care and accommodation were significantly reduced and that he would be able to go back to his old occupation. Simon’s solicitor obtained expert evidence to show that this was over-optimistic and advised him to reject an offer of just over £600,000. The insurers then increased this offer by just another £20,000, which Simon also rejected on his solicitor’s advice.
Simon’s solicitor then arranged a meeting with Simon, the insurers and their legal team 3 months before trial to try and negotiate a settlement. After protracted negotiations, the insurers agreed a total award of £750,000 to cover Simon’s injuries, loss of earnings and needs for care, prosthetics and adapted accommodation.
Legal Case Study 7
Rebecca was aged 6 at the time of her injury. She was an unrestrained rear seat passenger in a vehicle being driven by her father. She was sitting looking between the two front seats, when her father misjudged his speed and lost control of his vehicle. He went up a bank and Rebecca was thrown from the vehicle. She sustained horrific injuries to her left foot and despite attempts to save it, she had to undergo a below knee amputation the next day.
Liability was accepted at an early stage, but given the Rebecca’s young age, it was not possible to conclude the claim. Her injury was such that as she matured, particularly through adolescence repeated surgery was required and it was not until she reached skeletal maturity that the experts could comment on how she would be affected by her injury in adulthood.
Rebecca grew up with her injury and coped well with adapting, although she had difficulties at mainstream secondary school. She was eventually placed in a school for girls with physical disabilities, where she was able to complete her secondary education. She has since moved on to college and is continued to progress her education in IT.
Prior to the matter being taken over by a member of the LLLP, little had been done to assist with rebuilding Rebecca’s life. Rebecca had already suffered with a life time of prosthesis fittings and this would continue throughout her adult life. The experts had to consider to what extent she would require additional support at various stages of her life, ensure there were sufficient funds to allow for suitably adapted accommodation and to cover private prosthesis costs for the remainder of her life.
Rebecca reached 18 in January 2012 and her claim was due to come to court for an assessment of damages hearing in July 2012. However, the parties were able to reach a compromised settlement of the claim for the sum of £1,500,000, from which £143,000 in interim payments were deducted, which Rebecca had used to fund private surgery, prosthesis, case management and adaptations to the family home. She had also most recently purchased a vehicle. Rebecca is delighted with the settlement and her plans are to wisely invest the money to ensure she has what she needs into the future.